“High seafood intake causes increased arsenic levels in pregnant women”
The INMA Project (Infancia y Medio Ambiente-Environment and Childhood) has analyzed levels of urinary arsenic (inorganic and organic) in the first and third trimester of pregnancy in 489 pregnant women from Sabadell (Barcelona) and has found higher levels of arsenic than in pregnant women from other European and North American populations, but similar levels to those from other Mediterranean countries. This is likely due to the higher consumption of fish and shellfish in Mediterranean populations.
The study has been led by Prof. Joan Grimalt from the Instituto de Diagnóstico Ambiental y Estudios del Agua (IDAEA). Dr. Jordi Sunyer, the INMA Project coordinator and co-director of CREAL, an ISGlobal research center, emphasizes that “this study allows us to obtain the information necessary to estimate consumption of fish, which also contains metals and other nutrients that are essential for children’s development.”
Arsenic is a natural element of the earth’s crust that is widely distributed in the environment, including in air, water and soil. Its inorganic form is very toxic and can be ingested through drinking water or food exposed (naturally or artificially) to contaminated groundwater. In seafood, arsenic is mainly present in the less toxic organic form and is rapidly eliminated in the urine. This study could not differentiate between organic and inorganic forms but the strong relationship between arsenic levels in the urine of pregnant women and fish consumption suggests that it is organic arsenic.
Reference: Fort M, Grimalt JO, Casas M, Sunyer J. Food sources of arsenic in pregnant Mediterranean women with high urine concentrations of this metalloid. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int 2014 (in press)